- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

Maryland coach Gary Williams was asked Saturday whether his team could be 5-4 in the ACC when it travels to North Carolina in two weeks.

“Yeah, or we could be, what, 2-[7],” he replied.

The Terps aren’t going to be 5-4, but 2-7 remains a possibility. N.C. State utilized deft shooting from beyond the 3-point arc and near-flawless work at the foul line to defeat Maryland 81-69 at Comcast Center yesterday. The Wolfpack, who had not won at Maryland since 1989, handed the Terps their fifth loss in seven conference games.

“After we lost [Wednesday] to North Carolina, we had a meeting,” Wolfpack guard Scooter Sherrill said. “Coach [Herb Sendek] put it up on the chalkboard that we hadn’t won here in awhile, but this time we were able to get it done.”

At one point in the second half, six consecutive Wolfpack field goals were 3-pointers, including several as the shot clock approached zero.

Maryland (11-7, 2-5 ACC) grabbed the lead for the second and final time at 48-47, but a basket from Julius Hodge, a free throw and five 3s followed to push N.C. State’s lead to double digits with 6:03 left. Sherrill was scoreless in the game’s first 30 minutes but had 10 during that four-minute stretch.

The Wolfpack (12-5, 5-2) knocked down 10 of 19 long-range shots and 23 of 25 free throws.

“We practiced for a couple of days running their plays so we could cover their offenses better,” Williams said. “We would rather have them drive the ball than shoot 3s. But we couldn’t get their 3-point shots covered.”

Hodge led all scorers with 28 points. He beat Terps defenders in a variety of ways. N.C. State’s inverted offense puts four and sometimes five players outside the key. Hodge scored by slashing through the open space, isolating defenders in the post and shooting over them.

He made all 10 of his free throws while posting game highs in rebounds (nine) and assists (five).

Several Terps tried to guard Hodge. Sophomore swingman Nik Caner-Medley began guarding him, but after he turned his left ankle, guards D.J. Strawberry and Chris McCray tried their luck.

Poor starts to both halves also hurt the Terps. N.C. State big man Marcus Melvin scored the first nine points of the contest with a pair of 3-pointers and three free throws. The lead swelled to 11 on three occasions before the Terps rallied to tie it at halftime.

But the Wolfpack quickly secured a six-point lead with back-to-back 3s in the opening moments of the second half.

Senior Jamar Smith led Maryland with 21 points. While the Wolfpack excelled from the 3-point and foul lines, the Terps struggled. They made only nine of 18 free throws — worse than N.C. State shot from beyond the arc — and a meager two of 14 3-pointers.

“In a game like that you have to match them in a lot of ways,” Williams said. “This year they shoot the ball better from the 3-point line and free throw line.

“Coming out in the second half we missed layups near the basket. Those are our shots. … Maybe we weren’t going to be able to make their shots, but we had to make ours.”

The home loss was the second in conference play for the Terps, who are tied for seventh place with Virginia. The game Wednesday against the Cavaliers will complete the first round of play against ACC opponents, and the Terps then have five of their final eight at home.

Maryland likely needs to string together some wins, or its streak of 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances could be in jeopardy.

“We’re not out of it,” Caner-Medley said. “In terms of being in trouble, we’re in trouble if we don’t try to continue to get better.”

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